Here’s How One State Court Decision Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority

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  • A decision by New York’s top court has divided experts on whether New York’s Republican members of Congress could lose re-election in 2024.
  • The New York Court of Appeals’ decision in Hoffmann v. Independent Redistricting Commission on Tuesday means that the state will have new congressional district maps in 2024, which could be gerrymandered by Democrats to their advantage, costing Republicans their slim House majority, though some experts disagree.
  • “The question would be is how far Democrats want to try to push any advantage,” said Shawn Donahue of the University of Buffalo to the DCNF.

A recent decision by the New York Court of Appeals could lead to losses by several House Republicans in the 2024 elections, though experts are divided on whether it may cost the party its majority in the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the court ruled for the plaintiffs in Hoffmann v. New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, a case where several voters challenged the state’s current congressional maps that were drawn by a court-appointed special master in 2022, based on which Republicans picked up five seats in the House and accounted for their five-seat majority. The court’s decision to order the commission to redraw the state’s maps, which the Democratic-controlled legislature must approve, may lead to new district boundaries that include more Democratic-leaning precincts and result in all Republican incumbents losing reelection. (RELATED: New York’s Highest Court Allows Dems To Redraw Congressional Map, With Potentially Massive Consequences)

“The Democrats, you know, they have a lot more to gain by trying to make it where the legislature redraws the new maps,” said Shawn Donahue, an assistant professor of politics at the University of Buffalo and expert on voting rights and representation, to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The long and the short of it is Democrats hold super majorities in both chambers of the legislature and, you know…the commission is only technically advisory, it’s the legislature that ultimately makes the decision now.”

In the 2022 case, Harkenrider v. Hochul, the court struck down maps that were enacted by the state legislature for partisan gerrymandering, with the bipartisan commission deadlocking on approving the proposed maps before then, with all Democrats voting in favor while all Republicans were against them. The legislature, where Democrats have a two-thirds majority in both houses, will have free choice in determining whether to accept or reject the commission’s maps, again, should they not advantage Democratic candidates for the House in 2024’s elections.

“The question would be is how far Democrats want to try to push any advantage,” Donahue said. “When they drew their map last time, it was designed to have 22 Democrats and four Republicans. We don’t know if they’ll maybe try to go that aggressive…the seat that’s kind of questionable,  that I think where Democrats would try to change the lines substantially, would be the Staten Island-based 11th district with Nicole Malliotakis.”

Malliotakis is a two-term member of Congress whose Staten Island-based district, with a large population of police and fire department workers, is one of the most conservative areas of New York City, and was won by Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election by a margin of 11 percentage points over Joe Biden. In 2022, she won reelection over her predecessor, Max Rose, by a margin of over 23 percentage points.

“[For] six other Republicans, you know, reelection would be clear perils…[Nick] LaLota, the [George] Santos seat, [Anthony] D’Esposito, [Mike] Lawler, [Marc] Molinaro and Brandon Williams. I think all of those could see their districts [lost],” Donahue predicted. The names he listed are newly-elected House Republicans representing areas on Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties, which are suburbs of New York City.

Santos was expelled by the House of Representatives on Dec. 1 by a resolution sponsored by D’Esposito and his New York Republican colleagues. A special election for his district, which is the wealthiest in New York and covers parts of Queens and Nassau County, will be held on Feb. 13, 2024, with the Democratic nominee, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, leading in polls.

Not everyone believes that Republicans are imperiled by the changes. Vice Casale, a political consultant for New York candidates, thinks that political realignments in New York’s districts make the process more complicated.

“The Democrats cannot just redistrict New York Republicans into oblivion,” Casale wrote to the DCNF. “There are still too many seats where they can only make so many changes before it starts to affect other districts. For example, making Congressman Williams’ district bluer to take the seat back and then making Congressman [Pat] Ryan’s district bluer to help protect him will only help Congressman Molinaro by giving him a redder district.”

Regarding Lawler, who is being challenged by his predecessor, former Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones, Casale suggested he had a strong chance of retaining his seat even with the threat of redistricting. “[T]here still appears to be a complete misunderstanding of Rockland County politics and underestimating of the Congressman’s popularity,” he said of New York Democrats.

Because the court’s decision is a political question concerning a matter of state law, the judgment in Hoffmann is not reviewable by the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Maybe the [D]emocrats can pick up a seat or two, but honestly, they thought they did a good job…two years ago but did a pretty crappy job,” Casale said. “Getting a second chance doesn’t mean they will get it right.”

The reaction from the potentially affected lawmakers has been negative. “While I disagree with the decision to jettison NY’s current congressional map, I urge those drawing the new map to make the new districts compact & competitive. Doing so ensures the 2024 election is about important policies, rather than predetermined partisan outcomes.” wrote LaLota in an email to the DCNF, while a spokesperson for Molinaro referred to a tweet by the candidate on the issue.

“There’s nothing fair about this,” he wrote.

D’Esposito, Lawler, Malliotakis and Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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